The Brexit Election Battleground: The East Midlands

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Covering 46 seats across Nottinghamshire, Derbyshire, Leicestershire, Lincolnshire and Northamptonshire, politically speaking, the East Midlands is overall a very eurosceptic area. As the list below testifies, it is home to a number of eurosceptics on both sides of the Commons, although equally it is the base of some of the best known pro-EU voices in the Conservative Party: Ken Clarke, Anna Soubry and Nicky Morgan.

At 58.8% it had the second highest Leave vote last year of any region, with the estimated highest Leave vote in the entire country being notched up in the Boston and Skegness constituency and a Brexit vote of over 70% being attained in traditional Labour strongholds like Bolsover, Ashfield and Mansfield.

Virtually all seats here are now relatively straight Tory-Labour battles, with the Conservatives currently holding 32 seats to Labour’s 14. The Lib Dems last won representation here in 2005 when they held Tony Benn’s old seat of Chesterfield for a second and final time, while the aforementioned Boston and Skegness is UKIP’s top target in the region – the seat where they got their second highest share of the vote anywhere in the country in 2015. By contrast, the Greens barely hit the radar here, this having been their worst region at the last general election.

Only one seat changed hands in the region in 2015 – Derby North – and on paper there remain relatively few marginal seats that could change hands at this election.

Well-known Brexiteers standing in the region
Peter Bone (Con, Wellingborough)

Chris Heaton-Harris (Con, Daventry)
Philip Hollobone (Con, Kettering)
Andrea Leadsom (Con, Northamptonshire South)
Andrew Lewer MEP (Con, Northampton South)
John Mann (Lab, Bassetlaw)
Paul Nuttall MEP (UKIP, Boston and Skegness)
Dennis Skinner (Lab, Bolsover)

MPs seeking re-election who voted against triggering Article 50
Ken Clarke (Con, Rushcliffe)
Lilian Greenwood (Lab, Nottingham South)

KEY SEATS TO WATCH

Ashfield (Estimated Leave vote at June 2016 referendum: 70.5%)
Con: Tony Harper

Lab: Gloria De Piero (sitting MP)
LD: Bob Charlesworth
Green: Arran Rangi
UKIP: Ray Young
Ind: Gail Turner (Ind)

2015:
Lab: 19,448 (41.02%) – Maj: 8,820 (18.60%)
Con: 10,628 (22.42%)
UKIP: 10,150 (21.41%)
LD: 7,030 (14.83%)
JMB: 153 (0.32%)

In an astounding turnaround for a seat that had delivered a Labour majority of more than 20,000 in 1997, the Lib Dems came within 200 votes of winning here in 2010. However, their vote collapsed in 2015 and while the Tory vote stood still, UKIP surged to score more than 20% of the vote. With more than seven in ten voters having then opted for Leave at last year’s referendum, you can understand that pro-EU Labour MP Gloria de Piero might worry about her position in a seat with a seemingly erratic electorate. If UKIP’s support from last time were to coalesce behind the Conservatives and Labour lost ground, this could again be quite a close result.

Boston and Skegness (Estimated Leave vote at June 2016 referendum: 75.7%)
Con: Matt Warman (sitting MP)
Lab: Paul Kenny
LD: Philip Smith
UKIP: Paul Nuttall MEP
Green: Victoria Percival
Blue: Mike Gilbert

2015:
Con: 18,981 (43.80%) – Maj: 4,336 (10.00%)
UKIP: 14,645 (33.79%)
Lab: 7,142 (16.48%)
LD: 1,015 (2.34%)
Green: 800 (1.85%)
IE: 324 (0.75%)
ND: 170 (0.39%);
Pilgrim: 143 (0.33%)
BNP: 119 (0.27%)

This seat has a better claim than most to being “Brexit Central” given that it is calculated – at nearly 76% – to have delivered a bigger vote for Leave than any other constituency in the country at last year’s referendum. And after UKIP achieved its second highest vote share here (after the UKIP-held Clacton), the party’s leader, Paul Nuttall, has opted to don the purple rosette here in an effort to win the parliamentary seat. However, he may struggle to have an impact, given UKIP’s national poll collapse, its failure to win any local seat on Lincolnshire County Council at the recent election and the fact that he has hitherto had no connection with the area, having previously stood for Parliament in Bootle, Oldham and Stoke. Sitting Tory MP Matt Warman may have backed Remain, but having embraced the referendum result, he would surely expect now to increase his majority.

Derby North (Estimated Leave vote at June 2016 referendum: 54.3%)
Con: Amanda Solloway (sitting MP)
Lab: Chris Williamson
LD: Lucy Care

UKIP: Bill Piper
Green: No candidate

2015:
Con: 16,402 (36.66%) – Maj: 41 (0.09%)
Lab: 16,361 (36.56%)
UKIP: 6,532 (14.60%)
LD: 3,832 (8.56%)
Green: 1,618 (3.62%)

The only seat to change hands in the region at the 2015 general election, we now see a re-run of the contest between the Tory victor, Amanda Solloway, and the Corbynista former Labour MP, Chris Williamson. It is Labour’s top target in England, but while the lack of a Green candidate may aid Williamson, the destination of UKIP’s more than 6,500 votes from last time will probably prove decisive and – if current polls are accurate – are far more likely to end up helping deliver the Conservative candidate a second term.

Derbyshire North East (Estimated Leave vote at June 2016 referendum: 62.1%)
Con: Lee Rowley
Lab: Natascha Engel (sitting MP)
LD: David Lomax
UKIP: James Bush
Green: David Kesteven

Green: 1,059 (2.21%)
Ind: 161 (0.34%)

North East Derbyshire has not had a Conservative MP since the mid-1930s, but that could be about to change. Labour’s support has been drifting in this Leave-voting area over the last couple of decades and the majority of less than 2,000 enjoyed by Natascha Engel – currently one of the Deputy Speakers in the Commons – looks extremely vulnerable, especially if a chunk of the hefty UKIP vote opts to go to the Tories.

Gedling (Estimated Leave vote at June 2016 referendum: 56.3%)
Con: Carolyn Abbott
Lab: Vernon Coaker (sitting MP)
LD: Robert Swift
UKIP: Lee Waters
Green: Rebecca Connick

2015:
Maj: 2,986 (6.22%)
Lab: 20,307 (42.31%)
Con: 17,321 (36.09%)
UKIP: 6,930 (14.44%)
LD: 1,906 (3.97%)
Green: 1,534 (3.20%)

Gedling, on the outskirts of Nottingham, was the parliamentary berth between 1987 and 1997 of future Tory Cabinet Minister Andrew Mitchell, but has stubbornly remained ever since in the Labour column under the stewardship of Vernon Coaker with a majority that has only fluctuated between 1,800 and 5,600. In 2005 Conservative europhile Anna Soubry made an unsuccessful bid to unseat Coaker before finding a better prospect in Broxtowe for 2010. On paper, Carolyn Abbott needs a swing of a little over 3% to win it for the Conservatives at this election.

Lincoln (Estimated Leave vote at June 2016 referendum: 57.4%)
Con: Karl McCartney (sitting MP)
Lab: Karen Lee
LD: Caroline Kenyon
UKIP: Nick Smith
Green: Benjamin Loryman
Ind: Phil Gray
Ind: Iain Scott-Burdon

2015:
Con: 19,976 (42.64%) – Maj: 1,443 (3.08%)
Lab: 18,533 (39.56%)
UKIP: 5,721 (12.21%)
LD: 1,992 (4.25%)
TUSC: 344 (0.73%)
Lincs Ind: 286 (0.61%)

Conservative Brexiteer Karl McCartney gained this seat from Labour in 2010 by a tad over 1,000 votes and marginally increased that majority in 2015. Although UKIP have opted to contest the seat, McCartney will be targeting their nearly 6,000 votes in an effort to build on that majority at this contest in a seat that on paper remains in Labour’s top twenty targets in the country.

Mansfield (Estimated Leave vote at June 2016 referendum: 70.9%)
Con: Ben Bradley

Lab: Sir Alan Meale (sitting MP)
LD: Anita Prabhakar
UKIP: Sid Pepper
Green: No candidate
Ind: Philip Shields

2015:
Lab: 18,603 (39.42%) – Maj 5,315 (11.26%)
Con: 13,288 (28.16%)
UKIP: 11,850 (25.11%)
LD: 1,642 (3.48%)
Green: 1,486 (3.15%)
TUSC: 324 (0.69%)

Mansfield is one of those places which has never had a Conservative MP since its establishment as a constituency in 1885, although the Tories were an agonising 56 votes away from unseating Labour in 1987. But Sir Alan Meale – who has served as the Labour MP here since that 1987 contest – could now be extremely vulnerable as a Remain backer in a seat where more than 70% of voters backed Leave and more than a quarter voted UKIP in 2015. If enough of that substantial UKIP vote now opted to back the Tory challenger, the seat could finally fall into the Tory column.

Estimated Leave votes by constituency have been calculated by Chris Hanretty of the University of East Anglia

 

 

 

 

 

 

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